Since March, all of us have been feeling additional stress in our lives. News cycles run constant reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us are worried about losing our jobs or our homes. But some of the people under the most strain during this pandemic are healthcare workers.
Mental health for emergency workers has always been a challenging topic. But the additional stress of the pandemic has made it harder than ever. Read on to learn about some of the challenges facing our emergency workers and how employers can help to keep them safe and healthy.
How COVID-19 Impacts Mental Health
Before we dive into the strain emergency workers are under, let’s talk about the mental health challenges everyday people are experiencing right now. COVID-19 has brought with it an all-new wave of mental health challenges for Australians. To begin with, none of us has ever had to deal with the stress of living in the midst of a pandemic before.
But aside from the anxiety and fear the pandemic is causing, COVID has left many of us isolated from our friends and family. We’ve had to leave our workspaces, and we’re left trying to mark time in a monotonous loop of the same day over and over again.
Additional Strain for Emergency Workers
Healthcare and emergency workers are dealing with increased strain on top of the stress we’re all feeling in the wake of the pandemic. For one thing, their jobs are stressful under normal conditions. They see people in the absolute worst moments of their lives, and they are responsible for dealing with the worst horrors we experience.
Now, in the midst of COVID-19, emergency workers are trying to manage their own fear of contracting the virus on top of their usual stress. They are more exposed than many of us, and they see the deadly consequences of this disease every day. They may also be isolating from their family in an attempt to protect them, which leaves them without their usual support system.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress seems like one of those emotions we can all identify. Your heart rate goes up, you feel tension across your body, and you’re on edge. But stress can also present with some subtler symptoms that are important to recognize.
People who are under higher stress than normal may feel tired or unmotivated all the time. They may get angry about unrelated issues, or they may find themselves crying more than usual.
They may also experience changes in their sleep patterns and appetite. They may begin to feel nausea, or they may find themselves sticking to rituals as a way to manage increased anxiety.
One important step to protecting emergency workers’ mental health is to protect their physical health. Personal protective equipment can help reduce workers’ fears of getting COVID-19. This can help them feel more comfortable interacting with their families and getting the support they need.
Emergency services companies should make sure they have appropriate face protection every day and ensure they have an adequate supply of gloves and hand sanitizer. And they may need disposable clothing to keep their normal clothes from becoming contaminated.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
There are a number of healthy coping mechanisms emergency workers can use to deal with their stress. First and foremost, your employees need to have an open culture of communication in the workplace. They need to be able to talk honestly about the stress they’re feeling and how they’re managing it, and to see that they aren’t alone.
Taking care of your physical health can also be an important way to deal with stress. Employees should try to eat healthy meals, exercise on a regular basis, and maintain as regular a sleep schedule as they can. They should also take breaks to do things they enjoy and spend some time not paying attention to the news cycle.
Managing Mental Health Crises
When a mental health crisis does arise, it’s important that emergency workers know they have resources they can turn to. People experiencing mental health crises can go to their local emergency department. However, if an emergency worker wants to avoid a place where they’re so well known, there are a number of other resources available.
Lifeline provides a 24/7 support line at 13 11 14 for anyone experiencing suicidality or another mental health crisis. Someone dealing with suicidal impulses can also call 1 300 659 467 to reach the Suicide Call Back Service. There are also state-specific crisis numbers that emergency workers can call to get support.
With the onset of COVID-19, mental health for emergency workers has become more important and challenging than ever. Emergency service providers can help their employees by ensuring their people have plenty of resources to handle the stress they live with every day. Personal protective equipment, healthy coping mechanisms, and mental health care resources will help keep your employees healthy and safe.
If you’d like to discover more ways to protect your employees in the midst of crisis, check out the rest of our site at Gallagher Basset. We specialise in guiding you, guarding your business, and going beyond in protecting what’s important to you. Contact us today to discover more resources for keeping your business safe and healthy.